JENESYS 2018: Shinkansen – Behind the scenes (Part 2)

SENDAI, JAPAN: Given how the Japanese culture are embedded into the public facilities, be it the railway or bus transportation, it is only expected that a visit to Japan is not complete unless you had a cultural experience.

Akiu Craft Park in Sendai Miyagi Perfecture

We went on bus trip to the Akiu Craft Center in Miyagi prefecture to paint our very own Kokeshi Dolls. Kokeshi dolls are similar to Russia’s Matryoshka stacking dolls, minus the stacking. It was a famous toy for every household in Japan that has children back in the day.

Step by step to painting a Kokeshi Doll

The wood for the Kokeshi is left outside to “season” for one to five years before it can be used to make a doll. The doll is shaped with a round head and a cylinder body and it is painted to your liking, hence not every Kokeshi Doll design is the same.

The wood that is left to season will be carved into round and cyclinder shape to resemble a body

Today, the Kokeshi is no longer a toy but a valuable collectible item. I had the chance to paint one of my own and I am now a proud Kokeshi Doll owner.

My very own Kokeshi Doll

Hitachi Solutions

With the red paint still inked on my index finger from the Kokeshi painting, we went down to Hitachi Solutions to meet with the Transport Solutions Development team to attend a talk on public transportation system in eastern Japan.

We were briefed on basic equipment in Japan public transport system and how they have improved it to be user friendly and how they help the railway industry save cost by developing a systematic calculation to determine the best time for scheduled maintenance. This avoids delay in train service and it is cost efficient as they have been able to avoid urgent recovery and repair cost since this system developed. In engineer lingo they are using the “Monte Carlo” calculation method to calculate the probability of damage / mishap based on data collected from test runs.

The team at Hitachi Solution are constantly looking for ways to improve the public transportation services; they stand true to their motto “I decided to start it so now I have to finish it”.

Down to earth and warm team of managers down at Hitachi Solutions, Sendai

Today, they are the core providers for the passcard system in the eastern region of Japan. From the ticket vending machine, bus ticket mounted device, station ID processing machine up to the automatic ticket gate are all Hitachi solutions technology. Maintenance and repair are fully done by Hitachi, by the people for the people concept.

In our previous article I mentioned Tokyo using Passmo and Suica cards.  In Japan, there is no one size that fits all. In a different region, the bus and train fares are calculated differently to reflect the living standard of that area.

In Tohoku region, “ISCSA card” is used. ISCSA in Sendai lingo “Ikusuka” means “Let’s go” and it can be used on both buses and trains. Similar to our Touch and Go, users can reload the value in the card and unutilized balance can be returned when you surrender the card at any station.

The ICSCA Passcard – Photo courtesy of Google

Now we’ve come to the interesting part, Hitachi solutions have developed a mobile application for their users to avoid congestion. The programming is to analyze human traffic flow in stations and based on the congestion trend as seen on their surveillance camera, they are able to advise the users as to which door they should use at the station to avoid congestion and reduce delay time. The information is available to the user like a live feed.

Perhaps Malaysia for its transportation should consider having different rates for different cities or states like the Japanese taking into consideration the standard of living of that area.  Having said that, Malaysia could emulate how prepared the Japanese are in terms of mitigation. It is proven that planning ahead definitely save cost and how important it is to make available a user-friendly system to avoid delays for users and for service operators to provide efficient services.

What we learn from Day 4

To the Japanese, developing a railway infrastructure is not about putting together coaches, bullet trains, tracks and stations.  It is more than that – it is the integration of both hardware and software.

Hardware in terms of getting the infrastructure in place and software is not only technology but also culturally where daily norms form part of the system.


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